Saturday 7 November 2020



A bit of historical cartography never went amiss. I clipped this bit of map from OSI's wonderful geohive [historical] map-viewer., and annotated it a bit. I've been here before. The little cabin marked on the map of 180 years ago is in a field now known as Crowe's; and I've always assumed that field-name commemorates the family. My friend John Hickey, who has more skin in the game than us, is convinced that his ancestors built and lived in the clatter of houses in the NE corner of the map above. We call them "The Ruins" but there is no above-ground evidence of Mr and Mrs Crowe's gaff.  The far end of Crowe's, the field, is the site of The Ringstone a pretty good example of neolithic art-work; and beyond that is The Field Over The River which hangs over the stream which marks the end of the county.

This year, Jesko Zimmermann and Rob O'Hara, a couple of Teagasc researchers, have carried out a nationwide analysis of the Townlands of Ireland because they give important clues about historical land-use. Their Arable Clues Map highlights the areas of the country which currently are given over to arable farming with appropriately  corn-yellow  2.5km squares. And superimposed on that are townlands which are named for being part of the corn cycle: bron = quern; ceapach, gort = tilled field; muilean = mill; seisreach = ploughland; tamhnach = arable field. Here's our part of the country and two zooms from
The two pink dots are Cappagh, Ballon and Cappaghwater, Myshall. In the East is Coolnabrone, the nook of the quernstone, just across the river from Borris and in the West is Clonmullen, the mill in the meadow, near Bunclody. I guess Zimmermann and O'Hara know better than me why ceapach, gort and tamhnach are corn-fields and so evidence of arable; while the ubiquitous Cluain is a meadow or pasture. I guess partly it's so that the map isn't greened over with Cluains which along with Cnoc, Cill and Coill is one of the commonest toponyms in Ireland.
I was delighted to see quernstone names flagged as evidence of corn growing because that was what fired up Chris Corlett in his thoughts about The Holistic Landscape. One-dimensional researchers will see "lazy-beds" under the heather and think potato, famine, emigration, ruins and loss of title. But if those ridges are 8ft / 2.5m wide they are much more likely to be oats, even if 400+ metres above sea-level. And if you poke about the haggard and turn over a [fragment of] quernstone, then you know you're right.
You can read Zimmermann and O'Hara's summary of their research [PDF] to which I was alerted by their piece on RTE. And while we're reflecting on naming the landscape, a minute's silence for Tim Robinson.

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